Dodge City resident and longtime postal worker Gregory Martinez, who was convicted with one count of aggravated battery and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol as a second-time offender, was sentenced Monday afternoon.
At the sentencing, Martinez admitted a statement, expressing remorse and dissatisfaction.
Charges against Martinez stem from a 2012 hit-and-run incident where six-year-old Brisa Bustos was struck by Martinez's pickup truck in front of her home on Sunnyside Avenue. Bustos suffered a traumatic brain injury and was treated at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., from August through October. Following the incident, Martinez maintained that it was not his intention to strike Bustos, and that after taking a sleep aid at about 5:15 that evening, he "blacked out."
At the time Martinez struck Bustos, Kansas Bureau of Investigation laboratory tests showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.22, nearly three times the legal driving limit. Blood tests also showed that Martinez had THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, as well as the sleep-aid Zolpidem in his system at the time.
In a re-arraignment hearing that took place Oct. 21 in the District Court of Ford County, Martinez entered a no contest pleas to his two charges. A plea, Martinez said, he was not in the "right state of mind" to make.
"I believe this case wasn't handled in the right manner," Martinez said. "It wasn't presented to where I was told on Sept. 29, that if I didn't take my plea agreement I was going to jail for 14 and a half years, so I took the no contest plea."
In his statement, Martinez referred to the agreement that stated additional charges of reckless driving, driving left of the center line and leaving the scene of an injury accident would be dismissed with prejudice as part of a plea agreement. In the agreement, Assistant Ford County Attorney Kevin Salzman agreed to jointly recommend that Martinez serve a 24-month sentence. The standard sentencing range for aggravated battery is between 31 and 136 months in prison. The sentence for a second DUI conviction can be up to one year in county jail.
"There are a lot of discrepancies in the way this was all handled," Martinez said. "I just want to make clear that I'm sorry and I resigned from my position at the Post Office as of today and I ask the court to take that into consideration."
However, following his statement the state counter-acted saying they were confused as to why Martinez did not understand his plea agreement when he was given the chance to review it and accept it.
"If he feared 14 years in prison and that was his motivation to enter his plea, he certainly had every opportunity at the hearing to make that known to the court," Salzman said. "Never was it mentioned that he feared 14 years in prison. He was asked specifically if he was okay with the terms of his plea agreement and he said 'yes.'"
Page 2 of 2 - Following the State's statement, Martinez reiterated that when he entered his plea, he was "distraught and emotional."
Aside from discontent with his plea agreement, Martinez also expressed remorse to the victims of the incident who were present in the court room.
"I just want to say that this is an unfortunate accident and I feel for George and Perla. I'm sorry."
"I believe they know that I'm a good person, I had their kids swimming in my pool two weeks prior to the accident, they know—I still contend that I took a sleeping pill to go to sleep and the next thing I know I'm in county jail and have no memory of this accident still to this day."
Ford County District Judge Leigh Hood had difficulty accepting Martinez's version of events.
"It's difficult for me to accept this as an unfortunate accident. You chose to take a sleeping pill to go to sleep. You also had THC in your system and alcohol level well above the minimum. At the minimum, those are reckless acts, if not intentional," Hood said.
"Therefore, categorizing what happened to this young victim as an unfortunate accident is not acceptable to this court. What you did has no explanation, what you chose to do has no explanation. You chose to drink, you chose to take a sleeping pill, and you chose to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. What happened is a terrible tragedy. This young girl sitting here is very, very fortunate that she's still alive to enjoy her life."
On the primary offense of aggravated battery, Hood took into consideration Martinez's age and his longtime employment history and the fact that "at the end of the day, he's not a bad person" and granted the plea agreement for Martinez to serve a 24-month sentence with a post-release supervision of 24 months.
The time served from July to August in 2012 will be applied to his sentence.
On the second-offense DUI, Martinez was sentenced to one year confinement to run concurrent with his felony sentence.
Martinez was also ordered to pay a restitution fee to the Crime Victims Compensation Board for a total of $2,310.40.